NFRRS expansion into Olean

Independent Perspective 1701 with Mark Robinson talking about the NFRRS expansion into Olean

Host:  Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Mark Robinson, Community Engagement Coordinator with Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service (NFRRS), and I'm your host Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program, Mark.

Guest:  Thank you, Ernie. It's great to be here.

Host:  It's our pleasure. I am sure that there probably is somebody listening who is not familiar with the important work that NFRRS does for people with a variety of disabilities. If you could tell us who it serves and how it does it.

Guest:  Sure. We're a radio reading service, the only one in Western and Central New York at this time. And we were established just over 35 years ago for folks that are either blind or in some way are sight impaired. We estimate there's about 60,000 potential listeners in just in Western New York alone. So, we have over 125 volunteers and they are very dedicated, very compassionate, read on a regular basis. Local newspapers, national newspapers, books, magazines, and other printed materials and our folks, our listeners, think of them as a family. They describe it as somebody sitting next to them and they're reading to them and it's just it's wonderful. It's for a lot of people as they said it's the most important part of their day when they turn on the radio reading.

Host:  And when you say they're reading books, it's not just any books. It's an hour a day of a fiction book and a nonfiction book on The New York Times bestseller list if I'm not mistaken.

Guest:  Absolutely Ernie. We in fact encourage our folks to obviously clear that book they want to read ahead of time and if it's older than a couple years old, we usually say no, because it's been recorded in some other format. And it's available for folks to grab online somehow. So, we, our volunteers stick to the newer books and it's a great part of what we do and as you said they read about an hour a day. They’ll mark exactly where they finished in the book. And either they or another volunteer will pick up exactly the next word, it's cool how it works.

Host:  Terrific. Well, although NFRRS service has served Western New York and Southern Ontario for 35 years. Originally with people that just had radios that would pick up a special frequency and now they can get it streaming online. Correct?

Guest:  That's right. It’s one of the nice things that came out at COVID. We're discovering more and more positive things that happened because of that. And we couple years ago, we actually went online so now anybody that has access to the internet can pick up our broadcast, and we're available 24/7 they can listen to us live they can dial into our podcasts. So, anywhere in the world, there's the internet, you can listen to NFRRS.

Host:  Okay, the reason that you're here is to announce a major change. You're expanding to get local news out of Olean. How is that going to work?

Guest:  It's already working. I'm proud to say, I'm happy to say the most I think one of the best assets that we offer people are is the ability to listen to their local news. And for that you need obviously readers that want to volunteer their time and read local news publications. So, there was a huge gap down in the southern tier in particular in Cattaraugus County. And so, we reached out a few weeks ago, I put feelers out to Cattaraugus County legislator, to the library system, to the service clubs. I mean, you name it. I just every day I was pounding out announcements, we you know, please think about helping us we need some volunteer readers. Blah blah blah and what really was the turning point was when the Cattaraugus County library system adopted us pretty much and they are now providing a space for our volunteers to record and upload and they've helped us recruit readers. So, we're doing great down there.

Host:  Would you believe Mark we're already running short on time. I'm sure people will have questions. How can they reach you?

Guest:  They can reach us online or they can call us 716-821-5555.

Host:  Great. Thank you so much for being with us.

Guest:  My pleasure. Thank you, Ernie.

Host:  You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today was Mark Robinson, Community Engagement Coordinator with NFRRS, and I've been your host Ernie Churchwell.